Pine Nuts: My Huckleberry friend |

Pine Nuts: My Huckleberry friend

I have a Huckleberry friend who has kept me humored during the pandemic. Huck is a Steller’s jay, his species is named for an 18th century German naturalist, but his name comes from a boy who had some adventures out on the Mississippi River in the 19th century, as immortalized by Mark Twain.

This winged roustabout has earned his keep all these sequestered months by entertaining me with his dance and song, one, to get my attention, and two, to get a peeled and washed beer nut. But let me back up a minute…

Huckleberry was born on this deck here at Layne Haven last year, along with three siblings. When they were ready to fledge I spread a sleeping bag out on the driveway below to mitigate their crash landing, and darned if Huckleberry didn’t hit that sleeping bag while the other three took it on the chin.

Well he was back this year, probably to thank me for the sleeping bag, and started a Rudolf Nureyev act on the rail to get my attention. When that didn’t work he hopped onto the flag staff and started waving the American flag, I kid you not. I have the video. He took to tagging behind me as I walked to the lake every day this summer and fall.

He reacts to my whistling “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” Fact is, he goes into a spasmodic sort of touchdown end zone dance when I start whistling “Moon River.” It’s something to behold, really. I could charge admission were it not for the pandemic.

We have bonded, and become pals, exchanging pleasantries three times a day, at 8 a.m. for breakfast, noon for lunch and five for happy hour. I had to limit him to one beer nut per meal, as he was starting to need three and four steps in order to launch himself from the deck and go airborne.

The kids in the neighborhood believe Huckleberry responds to my hand signals, and that he is a genius, and I let them believe that.

On the night of Oct. 23 the temperature dropped to freezing here at the north shore of Lake Tahoe. On the morning of the 24th, Huck stood shivering on the rail and just looked at me, no dancing, no antics, just staring at me, as if to say goodbye. I instinctively knew what he was saying, and a tear clouded my eye. Then off he flew for Sacramento. I shouted after him, “Safe travels, Huckleberry!”

Immediately I emailed a friend down that way and alerted him to be on the lookout for Huck, he being somewhat rounder than the rest.

I know he’ll be back in the spring, but to tell you the honest to God’s truth, I sniffled a little and had to blow my nose when he didn’t show up this morning. Call me a softie, but I miss my Huckleberry friend…

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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